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Using bad life events in your writing

Pi Dana Bowman holds Beyond novels

When I was a journalist, often something happening in my life triggered a story idea. Not necessarily something personal in my life; it could have been something in my neighbourhood or  someone I knew or had just met. A big one was when I went through a few years of suffering from debilitating migraines. That one generated several stories published in several newspapers. The stories weren’t about me, but about migraines, headaches, and dealing with pain, including a story on the migraine sufferer who started The Migraine Foundation.

Fast forward to several years later when I am writing the Beyond mystery series. I made one of my re-occurring main characters, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding a migraine sufferer, who was the main character in a short story “The Headache Murders ” (Wordscape 5 Anthology, 1999 MTB Press), and also a main regular character in the first novel in the Beyond Series – Beyond Blood. It is the novel where my main character PI Dana Bowman meets Fielding when there is a weird Break and Enter at her house. Then her son is kidnapped and a murder is committed. You guessed it – Fielding comes down with a migraine and Dana, being Dana, tries to help Fielding in her in-your-face way. Here I use some of the tricks of the migraine suffering “trade”.

For me it was at a party at my house when I got a migraine. The stress of the party, coupled with dealing with a boarder co-organizing the party (and getting on my nerves). One of my friends sat me down in the kitchen, asked for a brown paper bag and told me to hold it over my nose and mouth and blow into it. as I recall, it didn’t completely get rid of the migraine.

But I thought it would work in Beyond Blood for Fielding and Dana to connect as they had started off getting on each other’s nerves (and continued and still continue to do so). I decided to put it in a bedroom scene – no, not what you are thinking. Dana and her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are bunking overnight  in spare bedrooms at their next door neighbours’ house, because the twins’ house is a crime scene and they have to get out for now. The next morning Fielding bangs on Dana’s bedroom door to question her further and brings her a change of clothes that Constable Nivens (female cop) had gathered. Dana was still in her dress-up clothes from the reception opening for her and her brother’s Attic Investigative Agency the previous evening. Some of the conversation goes like this:

Thanks.” I grabbed the bag. “You look like hell. No sleep?””

“Just a migraine. I get them all the time. It’ll pass.”

“Migraine. Here come in and sit down on….” A quick look around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the only chair.:..the bed.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t. Migraines are awful. My mother used to get them, but thankfully I don’t. She used to blow in a a paper bag, to get rid of the pain, I mean. Maybe there’s one here.” I started rummaging in the dresser drawers.”

Ms. B…B…Bowman, it’s all right.”

“Here we are.” I shook a scarf from a Fashion Shoppe bag and shoved the bag at Fielding. He ignored it. “Put it over your face and blow.”

He stared at me, for once speechless, took a deep breath and sputtered.

“Take the damn bag and blow. And go and sit down. I don’t want to have to deal with a cop passing out in a bedroom.”

A little colour hit his face for a second. He staggered over to the bed, plunked down on the edge, leaned over and blew. (From Beyond Blood, copyright 2014,  Sharon A. Crawford, published 2014, Blue Denim Press)

You can see how this pans out – and based on personal experience as mentioned previously. And there is something else different about Fielding from your usual police officer characters.

He stutters. Also from my life, but not me – a classmate from grade school. Not to be disrespectful to my classmate, but it triggered another different character trait to use.

So, the take-away idea is: what can you take from your life to use in your short story or novel? Something a little different than falling down drunk or an argument – although those could be used with a twist.

One piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. I prefer to use that as the bare basis and go from there. You may also find (particularly in non-fiction where you write fact, not fiction), you will become involved in a lot of research, including interviewing several sources. And in fiction, you may also need to go beyond your own experience as I had to in Beyond Faith when Dana is pushed down onto the cement and suffers a concussion.

And not I did not fall down on the cement or get someone to push me – although I have tripped over weeds and plants in my garden, and fallen down a few stairs – but those are for other stories.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The former migraine sufferer – real life

 

 

 

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When in doubt kill the character off?

 

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series. Still alive.

In last week’s fall finale of The Blacklist, Tom, one of the major characters was killed off in a very brutal way. Those following the British series Inspector Banks were jolted in one episode where a major character DI Annie Cabbot was killed. Blue Bloods killed (off screen/between seasons) a minor, but important to the series character, Linda, Detective Danny Reagan’s wife.

Near the end of last season, NCIS Los Angeles killed off Michelle, the wife of NCIS Agent Sam. Michelle’s roll wasn’t even as a regular, but as a recurring guest. But in a twist, the actor who played Grainger – Miguel Ferrier – a regular –  died in real life. Instead of following suit, the writers and producers had Grainger quit NCIS and go off to some faraway place.

 

 

Perhaps the weirdest one is the actor who played the original Morse on the old Inspector Morse series. Yes, the producers had Morse die of a heart attack when they were killing the series. But not long after the segment aired, John Thaw, the actor who played Morse died  also, but from throat cancer.

Lately, TV series seem to be in a killing mood. Want to delete a character from the series. Kill him. Actors playing the characters want more money than the new contract will offer. Kill off their characters.

So what does this have to do with fiction characters in novels? Maybe something as some of those series originated from books.

To me, killing off a character just to get them out of the TV series, out of the novel series, or even just out of a novel is a poor way to do it.  If you are going to kill a character there must be a reason within the story itself, something with the character and his other relationship with another character or characters.  Even in murder mysteries, characters are bumped off for some reason – maybe they were going to reveal something bad about the murderer, maybe they stood in the way for the murderer to inherit money, maybe revenge and yes even the so-called random killing spree where the killer kills for no apparent reason. there is always some reason even if just in the killer’s mind.

If a character in your novel dies from natural causes,  it has to be worked into the plot. Let’s look at a scenario from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery. There are two brothers – Gerrard Olsen and Larry Olsen. Near the beginning one of them gets killed. Without giving any spoilers, I had to think which brother and why and of course, who killed the brother and what led up to the killer doing so. That doesn’t come out right at the beginning, but PI Dana Bowman and her fraternal twin brother PI Bast Overture, and Det. Sgt. Fielding are trying to find out. Like most of my mystery novels and short stories, it is not straightforward. It all rises from the characters – who they are – what they have gone through and are going through in life and would they cross that line to kill? That latter is very important for an author to consider. Some characters are such bad assess in what they do that killing is believable. Other bad ass characters commit a lot of crime and/or are mean and ill-treat the people in their lives, but draw the line at killing them. Then there is the so-called good character who is pushed beyond his limits to the point where they kill.

Iit really all boils down to the character and the plot – and the two go hand in hand and drive each other. If you want one of your novel’s major characters to exit the novel, killing them may not be the only answer. That often comes across as lazy writing. Tthat can happen in mystery novels too, although when you get to the end and the good guy confronts the bad guy (or gal – guys don’t have the monopoly on being bad asses), the author has to “get rid” of the bad guy, but shooting her dead is not always the best way. The author has to consider who the good guy/gal is and how she would deal with it. Would she arrest the bad one? Or shoot him? Torture him? Push him into the lake and let him either swim or drown? Having said that, sometimes the good guy (or gal) isn’t the trigger-happy person, but is forced into a situation where it is ether the bad guy’s life or his. Then he might have to shoot – but not always to kill. Be creative. Many authors are. They have killers disappear during one novel only to return in a later novel. Chances are with this type of scenario, the novel’s protagonist probably has had some kind of a relationship with the baddie – so he will have to deal with the before and after. Unless you are a sociopath, you will be scarred  by the death of someone close to you. You will have to grieve.

Back to Inspector Banks and the killing of Annie. That does not happen in the books by Peter Robinson the British series is based on. And to me that is a disrespect for the original author. True, TV series don’t follow the novels they come from and often go off the novel’s track, often for a good reason. They can’t get all the novel contents in a movie or limited TV program. And series have to expand beyond the novel’s plot.

Killing a character on TV or in a novel shouldn’t be done just to eliminate him. There has to be a reason – beyond the character just being bad or leaving the TV series. Haven’t these producers heard of just getting another actor to play the part? It was done years ago with the comedy series Bewitched when the actor playing the husband died. And it was done recently with the British series Jack Taylor. A different actress now plays the part of Kate. Both work.

What are your thoughts and ideas on killing off characters in books and TV. Do you kill of any of your fiction characters? Why or why not?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon.

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery links to Amazon

 

 

 

 

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Beyond Mystery Serial Part 6 and words from Dana and Sharon

The arrival of Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series is getting closer.

Dana Bowman here. And Sharon A. Crawford, the real author, always here.We have an update. Beyond Faith’s appearance is coming closer.

Dana: Sharon has negotiated for Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood to get into the Dealers’ Room for Bouchercon 2017. New business cards are in the works.

Sharon: And sorry, Dana, you aren’t on them – like my editor would say – no space.

Dana: That’s okay…at least for now for this serial story which could be called Beyond Reason features me . Part 6 follows.

Dana: Fielding, what do you mean some of the characters here don’t exist. David certainly does and so does Ms. Dugan.

Fielding: Look on the floor and tell me what you see.

Dana (looking down): The floor.

Fielding: But what is there on the floor?

Dana: Nothing. Hey, who stole the hooded guy? Oh wait. Sharon made him disappear.

Fielding: Sharon? I  don’t see any Sharon. . .

Dana: Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books.

Voice of Sharon: Ah, hah. You are finally admitting it.

Dana: Yes. No. What the hell?

Dana, turning around and looking at Ms. Dugan and David sitting on the office couch: Well, you two are still  here. So you must have seen Sharon make it disappear and then disappear herself?

David: Mommy, Mommy what do you mean? Sharon. She just disappeared. Maybe she took the dead guy?

Ms. Dugan: What dead guy? There is just us here.

Dana, looking around: Where’s Bast? He was just here too.

Ms. Dugan: Never saw him. Just you, David and me, and of course, Sharon.

Dana, scratching her head: What the heck. And I suppose you didn’t see Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding either?

Ms. Dugan: Who?

Dana: The detective who was investigating your brother.

Ms. Dugan: I don’t have a brother.

Dana: Yes, you do.  He was banging on the door here and he was caught coming out of a hardware store carrying a screwdriver which he is alleged to have used in some break and enters. And he was living with you for now.

Ms. Dugan: I live alone.

Dana: Well, if all this is true, then tell me what the hell you are doing here and what have you done with my brother? I… oh my head hurts.

Dana falls to the floor.

TO BE CONTINUED…. MEANTIME:

Check out my website to see what Dana and I  have really been up to. And yes, Beyond Faith is a reality .

Sharon A. Crawford

and

Dana Bowman

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Bowman mugshot

 

 

 

 

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Beyond mystery serial Part 5 and Dana Bowman on Beyond Faith

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It’s coming. Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series, this October 2017. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator here. Yes I’m out from between the book covers. And we do have a book cover now. Sharon A. Crawford, the author has made her choice. Stay tuned for a sneak look – coming up soon in a post here. Meantime Sharon is frowning and standing here in front of all of us in this ongoing seat-of-your pants story.

 

Voice: I’m Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books and I want to know why you Dana are pulling characters out of Beyond Faith.

Dana: I’m not. They are just appearing.

Sharon: No, they’re not. You’re doing it.

Dana: I am not. Look here, just whose story is this anyway?

Sharon: That’s what I’m wondering.

Dana: Well, you may have something to do with the Beyond mystery books but this online story is MY creation.

Sharon: Really?

Dana, pointing a finger: Yes, really.

Ms. Dugan: Hey, what about my brother and what about me and that…that hooded person on the floor over there?

Sharon, waving her right hand and arm around like a want: I can take care of that. Begone.

The figure disappears.

David: Hey, it’s magic. You are really a cool author.

Dana: David.

David: Aw Mom, so are you.

Ms. Dugan, frantically waving her arms: Hey, can I get your attention, please. What about my brother? What about my story?

Sharon: Well, what about i?. Dana, you said you are writing this one. So, go through it. But no more characters from Beyond Faith.

Ms. Dugan: But I’m in it.

Sharon: You get a few brief mentions. So don’t exaggerate here. Now, I’m out of here…for now.

Sharon strides out of the agency office as Detective Sergeant Fielding walks in.

Fielding: Dana, I need to talk to you. We have been looking into this matter and some things don’t add up.

Dana: What do you mean?

Fielding: It seems there is some question about some of these characters.

Dana: What?

Fielding: Some of them don’t seem to exist. Can you explain that, Ms.Dugan?

TO BE CONTINUED…

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Like Dana says, Beyond Faith is coming. Meantime, there is Beyond Blood – the book before. If you haven’t read it yet, click on the book cover below to find out how.

The second Beyond book in the series

 

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A word from Dana Bowman and mystery serial part 4

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It’s coming. Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator here. Yes I’m out from between the book covers. But which book? With the number of proof readings my author Sharon A. Crawford  and I have been doing for Beyond Faith, that would be the book. But the book is coming in early October. And soon you’ll get a peek at the cover. And… oh rats, Sharon is waving  her computer mouse at me to get cracking with the next episode in this online serial story

Bast, Ms. Dugan and Dana turn towards the balcony. They can hear the crunch of branches as something moves up the tree. A figure in a hoodie and sunglasses appears in the window by the balcony door.

Dana: Stay put, Ms. Dugan and David. Bast and I will check it out.

Ms. Dugan: Call me Carla.

Dana, stands up and glares at Ms.Dugan: I thought it was “Emily.”

Ms. Dugan: That, too. Call me either.

David grabs Dana’s arm: Mommy, Mommy, the creature is coming to the door. I left it open when I came in.

Bast charges over to the balcony door. Before he can close it, the hooded figure steps inside. Bast grabs it and the two tousle.

Dana: David, get Fielding here.

Dana runs to help her brother who is clearly not getting the better of the confrontation. She is just reaching down to grab the creature when a voice sounds from behind.

Voice: What is going on here? And who let that person wearing the hoodie in?

David, sounding scared: I did, but not on purpose, honest

Voice: Well, that person is NOT supposed to be out yet. Dana Bowman, what are you up to now? I can’t leave you alone for one minute and you get into trouble.

Dana: Oh, Oh. I really had nothing to do with it. Neither did Bast or David. But Ms. Emily or Carla or whatever-he-name-is Dugan just might have.

Ms. Dugan: Not me. I just came here for help for my brother.And who are you talking to?

Voice: She’s talking to me. And you should be able to hear me now.

Ms. Dugan: I can now. Who are you?

Voice: Why, I’m Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books and I want to know why you Dana are pulling characters out of Beyond Faith.

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

The second beyond book.

 

 

                   Read more about Dana Bowman here.

 

 

 

 

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Beyond mystery Part 3 serialized here

BEYOND FAITH IS COMING THIS FALL

We interrupt this story for an announcement from Dana Bowman, the main character in the Beyond mystery series.

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The next novel in the Beyond series – Beyond Faith is coming this October. No spoilers but there are lots of puzzles and murders which I have to solve. And.. oh, oh, my author Sharon A. Crawford is pointing her finger at me to continue with this ongoing weekly story. In a sec – first Beyond Faith takes place the last two months of 1999. And the below story occurs just just before that.Sharon is

Sharon is also saying to check out her website. Updates will be posted there about Beyond Faith

And now my continuing story…

The police have arrived – Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding from Major Crimes and Detectives Stewart and Tractor from Forensics. Dana, Bast, David and Ms. Dugan are sequestered in the Attic Agency Office, waiting for Fielding to question them. Outside the agency door, Tractor and Stewart are doing their forensic job.

Ms. Dugan, pacing around the room: Oh my God, my brother, Wayne, I can’t believe he’s dead. Who would do this?

Dana: Really. He was involved in some questionable activities.

Ms. Dugan: Not now. He was not doing those break and enters. He was going to fix my door hinge.

Dana: Well, maybe or maybe not. He still had some questionable associates as the police would say. I mean he is now dead…

David: Mommy, Mommy, you gotta help Ms. Dugan.

Dana: That’s what we are trying to do here, David.

Bast: Dana, let’s not be harsh. Ms. Dugan

Ms. Dugan: Emily, please.

Bast: Emily’s brother has just been murdered.

David: Mommy, Mommy….

Dana: David, quiet please. Maybe you should go back onto the balcony.

David: Mommy, we gotta help Ms. Dugan. We…: David is shouting now and stands up.

Dana: David. Do you want the police coming in here now? They are going to separate us soon. I’m surprised they didn’t do it sooner.

Bast: There is a body outside the door.

Dana: Right. Okay. So, Ms… Emily, do you recognize that voice from the other side of the door?

David: It’s one of his friends. He did it. He..

Dana: David. Okay, that’s it. (She points to the balcony). Out onto the balcony.

David: Aw Mommy.

Dana: Now.

David pouts and stomps towards the balcony.

Dana; Leave the door open but keep quiet. Now Ms…. Emily. About that voice outside the door.

Ms. Dugan: Not Wayne. He would have been dead. I didn’t recognize the voice – it didn’t sound natural;

Dana: But it could have been one of his assoc… friends disguising his voice. Okay, we need you to give us Wayne’s friends names and their contact info.

Ms. Dugan: There’s Doug Pinchard, Mike Green, and Steve Sumach. They all went to school together and hung out then and afterwards.

Dana: And got into trouble together?

Ms. Dugan: Yes, juvenile stuff – vandalism, joy riding.

Bast: And as adults?

Ms. Dugan: No!. Oh all right. They did do a few break and enters – but that was three years ago and they did their time in prison for that. And Wayne was going straight. He even just landed a job at fast-food place and was to start next week.

Bast: And the other three? Did they find jobs?

Ms. Dugan: I don’t know.

Dana: Come, come, Emily, you say you are close to your brother..

Ms. Dugan: Wayne didn’t tell me everything.

Dana: But he was living with you so you would know if his friends came round.

Ms. Dugan: Not necessarily. Not when I was teaching.

Dana: Wouldn’t you see evidence of them being there when you returned home?

Ms. Dugan: What do you mean?

Bast, interrupting: Dana means evidence of eating – maybe empty potato chip bags, dirty glasses, cigarette butts.

Ms. Dugan: Yes, I suppose so.

Dana: Come come Emily – either there was evidence or not.

Ms. Dugan: Oh all right. I did find a few dirty glasses – once – and cigarette butts, but Wayne smokes…smoked. Oh, I can’t do this. My baby brother is dead. Someone killed him. (She starts sobbing).

Bast: Take it easy. Do you want some water?

Dana: She might want something a bit stronger, Bast.

Ms. Dugan: Water is fine.

Bast pours some water into a glass from the pitcher on the file cabinet and hands it to her. Dana hands her a writing pad.

Dana: Start writing Wayne’s friends names and contact info – what you have. Also your impressions of each. It might help us figure out what happened.

Ms. Dugan: Okay. (She starts writing)

David charges into the room.

Dana: David, what did I say?

David: But Mommy, someone is climbing up the tree to the balcony.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Like Dana says, Beyond Faith is coming. Meantime, there is Beyond Blood – the book before. If you haven’t read it yet, click on the book cover below to find out how.

The second beyond book.

 

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Beyond book characters new mystery online here

Dana Bowman escapes from Beyond Blood again.

As some of you know I do comedy skits featuring Dana Bowman, the main character in my Beyond mystery books. After the most recent skit, which I did with literary fiction author Shane Joseph at my East End Writers’ Group “Creativity from the Stacks” presentation the end of June, I’ve banished Dana to between the covers of Beyond Blood…until the next book in the series, Beyond Faith, comes out in October.

But that isn’t sitting too well with Dana and she’s been straining the book covers. So, I’m letting her out, but in my weekly blog posts only, and only until Labour Day. Dana swears she has a story to tell and it has to be told.

Very well, I’m turning the blog post over to Dana.

Dana: Finally. Oh, yeah. Thanks Sharon. Yes, well let’s get right to it. First, I have to go bring in the weekly local newspaper. Well, it is 1999 and print was still the main way to read a newspaper, although there were some articles posted online.

Dana goes to the front door, opens it, steps out onto the veranda, and stoops to pick up the paper. A large photo of a young woman stares back at her. The headline says Local teacher’s brother suspect in b and e ring.

Dana: What the? .She starts reading the story as she heads for the kitchen and a cup of coffee.

Bast: Anything interesting in the paper?

Dana: Yeah. David’s teacher has suspected criminal ties.

Bast: What? Here give me that paper.

Dana hands it over and Bast starts reading the story.

Bast: The brother of a Thurston grade school teacher is being held by police on break and enter charges. Wayne Dugan, who lives with his sister, Carla Dugan in Thurston, was picked up last night by Cooks Regional Police as he left Morgan’s Hardware on Main. He was carrying a bag of screwdrivers which he had just bought.

Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding who is heading the investigation, claims they received an anonymous tip that Dugan was involved in the current break and enters in Thurston. These break and enters are widespread across different areas of Thurston.Unlike the spurt of vandalism and break and enters that plagued Thurston in August of last year, it is believed that the current burglaries involve more than one person.

In August 1998, Thurston’s burglaries took an ugly turn with dead raccoons being found at the homes of some residences broken into. The situation escalated into the murder of Debbie Sanger during The Attic Investigative Agency’s opening reception. Co-owner of the agency, Dana Bowman’s son, David, was kidnapped that same evening..

Dana: Oh for Christ’s sake. Can’t they leave last year alone. David is having enough trouble recuperating from all that. Here, give me that paper.

Bast hands it back to her.

Dana: It says here that Carla Dugan is proclaiming her brother’s innocence and that the screwdrivers were needed to fix some loose hinges in the front door. Really? I mean the innocent part.

Bast: Innocent until proven guilty.

Dana: Oh, for Christ’ sake Bast, get real.

Bast: I’m just saying.

Dana: Well he is David’s teacher’s brother and they live together. What if the rest of the gang were at their place? What if she is part of the gang? What if…?

Bast, mimicking Dana’s voice:  Oh for Christ’s sake…

Dana: It’s not funny. It’s too close to David, especially after last year.

Bast: I know, sis. Maybe you should have a chat with your er, boyfriend.

Dana: Fielding is not my boyfriend.

Bast: Well, your admirer. I’m sure you could get him to talk. I’m sure…

A loud knock sounded at the front door.

Dana: Who can that be? David just left for school an hour ago. And it’s not the agency door.

The two rush to the front door. Bast pulls it open.

On the doorstep stands David. Beside him is the woman in the newspaper photo – Carla Dugan.

David: Mommy, mommy, the police are after Ms. Dugan. You have to help her.

 

Want more? You’ll have to come back next Thursday..

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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